I rebuilt a boat!

Posted on January 17th, 2013

I just finished doing seminars at the Toronto International Boat Show and met many of our fans there.  One fan in partifular was worried about me since he regularly checks my blog to find out where I have been fishing/catching and he was suprised to see few blog updates for the last month and a half.  He was hoping I was OK.  I reassured him that the last blog I had done was after Aldo Nava and I shot a jumbo perch fishing TV show on the Lower Niagara back in Nov. 2012.  For the last month and a half I have been concentrating any spare time to rebuilding a boat.  Here’ my story.

My good friend Aldo Nava had been using a 19’6″ center consul boat to do his Niagara River fall/winter/spring charter fishing.  Canadian Sportfishing also used the boat as a “camera boat”.  The boat worked great until this past fall when we all noticed that the back of the boat (near the transom), was running very close to the water line.  So low, that water was getting into the fuel vent and water would accumulate in the gas which resulted in the outboard stalling. Aldo did some checking and found that his “hull” has 99% moisture in it.  This is bad news because it means the boat, over time picked-up water.  The water in the hull could not drain out, so it weighed the boat down and over time rotted much of the wooden stringer system in the boat.  Disapointed, Aldo wanted to see if he could do some repairs and removed some of the floor to visually see how bad the problem was.  To his dismay, the foam inside the boat was full of water, everywhere.  His conclusion was to scrap the boat and purchase another centre consul.

I told him that I really liked the configuration of the deep-V-hull and the design of a special “flange” around the top of the hull where it meets the deck (knocks water and waves down when running), and told him that I would rip more of the floor out to get to the base-hull and see if it was salvagable.  I did most of the “ripping-out” in Aldo’s backyard, in the rain.  Aldo & our friend Rowan Jessik gave me a hand.  I used a power saw, crowbar, and any tools I could find to tear, rip and remove water-logged foam, rotten wood and old fiberglass.  When I got to the actual hull, the glass was definitely wet, but it was solid.  That’s when I told Aldo instead of him paying to scrap the boat, I would take it off his hands and look at stripping it down to the bare glass and rebuilding it.  That’s when my boat rebuilding adventure began, back in Nov.!

Back in the 1970’s I had some experinece in re-building my first bass boat when a good friend of mine, Bill Morrison in Oshawa, ON build a hull and deck to a 16′ Checkmate runabout boat for me.  I took the hull and deck, and modified the “run-about” configuration into a duel-consul bass boat complete with rear & front casting platforms, build-in livewell, carpeting, seats…the works!  I fished with that boat for many years and won tournaments with it until I could afford to purchase my first Allison bass boat!

This was a different story.  The boat was a Dolphin Ambush built in 1997 in Illinois, USA.  Before rebuilding it I had the tough work of taking everything out of it….I mean everything.  First we removed the floor, rear-compartments, all the hardware, and the water-logged foam.  Next we cut out the old stringers and supports.  The gas tank, gas lines, cables, everything had to be removed.  The inside of the transom was removed which took almost a week’s work using chissels, hammers, grinders, and anything else I had to remove all the solid wood, wet wood, rotten wood and fiberglass.  All of this “rough-work” was done in my garage.  After 2-weeks, all I had in my garage was the fiberglass “skin” of the boat.  Even that fiberglass has to get dried out.  I used heaters in the boat (Nov. was getting cold) for about 1-week to ensure most of the moisture was out of the boat.

From there, the boat was trailers to JC’s heated shop where I continued the work.  My first job was to re-build the transom.  I used 3/4″ plywood, contoured the wood so it was the shape of the transom and fiberglassed it in, in 3-layers; 3/4″ fiberglassed to the transom skin, once that dried, I fiberlassed another 3/4″ layer to the first one and when that dried I fiberglassed another 1/2″ layer to finish it.  The fiberglass cloth I used for most of the construction was 8-ounce woven rowing sandwiched between 2-layers of 1-ounce mat cloth (one on each side of the woven rowing).  The transom is now 2 1/2″ thick and solid.

Much of the advice I received on how I should do the job and what materials I should use came from my good friend Glen Meadus who builds www.seabreezeboats.com , in Newfoundland. Before purchasing Sea Breeze boats, Glen sold boat building materials to the boat building industry and not only does he build one of the finest boats, but he knows pretty well eveything about what should be used and how when you are building a boat!

I used a special resin called Vynil Ester to connect the wood to the old transom glass.  In fact, I used Vynyl Ester whenever I had to connect new material to the old hull glass since Vynil Ester has smaller molecules and bonds better to older glass than regular polyester resin. Next, I had to rebuild a main support that was at the bow of the boat, which also created the partitian to a storage compartment.  I used 1/2″ plywood again to make the support and used the Vynil Ester to glass it in.

Next, I had to install the new stringer system.  Glen advised that I should use a very light foam he called “Pearl Board”.  I found out that this material is made by Firestone and used for “flat-roof” construction.  I used 14″ high by 2″ wide Poly Iso for the stringers and glassed them in with the 2:1 cloth ratio.

Next, I had to install the cross-supports in-between the stringers.  This was done using 1/2″ plywood.  The hull was than coated in gelcoat. After the stringers/supports were in I build the two compartment bases at the stern of the boat.  I installed a 14-gal, oval baitwell on one side and battery trays on the other side. 

Next I installed the gas tank, leveled it properly and secured it to the stringers.  Hoses were connected and conduits placed/glassed inbetween the stringers that would facilitate for running wiring/cables later on.

Next, I installed “buoyancy billets” as the floatation floam for the boat.  After seeing how the traditional foam that is used in the boating industry soaks up water, I feel it should be BANNED from being used!!  I chose to use Dow Corning buoyancy billets since they are designed to be in the water.  Their primary use is to support boat housed and docks.  One cubic foot of buoyancy billet floats 50 lb. of weight.  The two sections of buoyancy billets I installed in the boat supports 1,600 lb.!! And, they won’t absorb water.

Once the buoyancy billets were in place, I connected all of the plumbing in the boat.  I had designed the floor higher than it was originally so that it would be “self-bailing”.

Once the plumbing and rough wiring-in was done,  it was time to cut, fiberglass and prepare the floor pieces and the sections that would be used to build the rear casting platform.  This was done using 1/2″ plywood fiberglassed on both sides.  All compartment hatch “holes” had to be cut, and also all of the access holes for the floor which would later be finished with proper coverings.

The section of floor-seems were fiberglassed together and the entire floor was fiberglassed to the hull of the boat using the Vynil Ester.  Once the floor was in place, the entire floor was fiberglassed and again glassed to the hull using a mix of mat/woven rowing cloth.

After the floor was finished, the rear casting platform/compartments were glassed in.

Next, the re-finished center consul had to be glassed in, and the bench seat which I had converted into a full-size fish-well. 

Once those were in, the entire inside of the boat was gelcoated.

After gelcoating the inside of the boat, it was time to re-finish the outside of the hull and transom.  This was done using a marine polyester pain called Brightside (suggested by Glen Meadus).  The outside of the hull was prepared; any inperfections were repared, it was sanded down, and a “pre-coat” of primer was applies using a lint-free roller and brush.  To finish off the exterior, 2-coats of Brightside were used.

We installed a manual “jack-plate” to the transom, covers for the live-well pump intakes and Aldo hooked-up the hydrolic steering system and bled the lines of air.

Aldo helped re-instal the bumper/trim around the boat which used about 100 stainless steel screws to fasten to the “flange”, and the wiring, could be connected.  Chris from JC’s was kind enough to have Mike, one of his emplyee properly connect all of the wiring for; the automatic bilge pump, baitwell pannel, live-well, lights, etc.

Finally, the outboard was installed by Port Colborne marine, and I was off to Florida by Jan. 14, 2013.  Thank God I had met my scheule.

The boat is now in Florida and is being rigged with a Minn Kota Rip Tide electric trolling motor, Minn Kota on-board, 3-bank charger, Talon, and a Humminbird 800 series sonar. 

I must tell you that as I worked on this  rebuild I had a lot of guidance from God.  That is correct, whenever I wondered how I would do this or do that, I would “feel” (almost hear a soft voice letting me know what I should do and how), what I should do, and I did that.  I am thankful that this boat is build solid, there are no screw holes in any of the “exposed” areas of the rear-casting platform, or interior floor, everything is either glassed-in, or I used 3M Silicone (even to connect all of the hatches, etc.).  If water splashes in the boat, or rainwater, it all funnels to the self-bailing drain in the floor and goes out a 1″ hose through the transom.  Even the holes drilled through the transom have been fiberglass & gelcoated before bolts have been installed.

Guess what I will be doing in the near future? You got it, scouting potential TV filming spots and blogging my fishing adventures for you to enjoy from my reguilt boat both in the protected Florida “flats”, and also as far off-shore as 15-miles in the Gulf of Mexico!

If you are thinking of repairing or re-building an older boat and you have some questions, I would be happy to answer them for you.  Feel free to email me at Ask Italo.

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